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Monday, March 18, 2019

When God Communicates With Us

Communication has been defined as "an interactive process in which meaning is stimulated through sending and receiving verbal and non-verbal messages." http://www.msucommunitydevelopment.org/effectivecommunication.html In its simplest form, that process can be described as "A sender transmits a message through a channel to the receiver." https://www.cliffsnotes.com/study-guides/principles-of-management/communication-and-interpersonal-skills/the-communication-process This process can be accomplished via verbal or non-verbal means and involves the encoding of the message by the sender and the decoding of that message by the receiver. https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/what-is-communication.html

Now most of us recognize that we have just distilled a very complex process to make it more manageable for the purposes of this post. We know, for instance, that there are a number of variables that can impact the effectiveness of this process. Some of the more common barriers to effective communication have been identified as: 1) the use of over-complicated/unfamiliar/technical terms, 2) the intrusion of emotion and taboos, 3) the receiver's lack of interest in or attention to the message 4) the presence of distractions, 5) not being able to use or receive non-verbal cues, 6) language differences between the sender and receiver, 7) the potential for differing expectations, prejudices, perspectives/viewpoints of the parties, and 8) differing cultural norms. https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/barriers-communication.html

Taking these variables into account, we understand that a person may not always receive the message that the sender intended. Indeed, it has been said that "The effectiveness of any communication is judged by how closely the receiver's understanding matches the sender's intent. In the final analysis, the only message that matters is the one the other person receives." http://www.msucommunitydevelopment.org/effectivecommunication.html

Now, what does all of this have to do with God? The short answer is "A LOT!"

Think about it. Most Christians would say that God communicates to us through the Bible - that that book is His message to us. If we acknowledge that God as The Sender is perfect, we cannot say that about you or me as the receiver. Scripture tells us that God's mind power and fund of knowledge is vastly superior to our own. Moreover, if this is indeed the case, then God would be very cognizant of this fact (after all, He is the one who designed us).

Hence, it is not a stretch to conclude that ANY means (including the Bible) which God chose to communicate with us could not be completely effective! Our very nature in relation to God, and the nature of the process itself, preclude any communication from God to us being completely effective! Think about the variability of our moods, attention, biases, education and listening skills. God may be perfect, BUT WE ARE NOT.

Try, for a moment, to think about the implications of all of this for folks like Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Paul, Peter and John. Think of them as RECEIVERS of the message, and then think about them transmitting that message to us. Moreover, the fact that we only have these written documents (or do we really only have the scriptures? What about prayer, meditation, contemplation and experience?) cuts us off from a number of the tools a receiver might otherwise use to clarify the message.

And, if we say that the Holy Spirit is the tool which God uses to clarify His message and make our reception of it more perfect, don't our imperfections/inadequacies as humans still apply? Do people acting under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit ever get things wrong? Does the Holy Spirit make us infallible - at least in matters relating to God?

"Remember, the only message that matters is the one the other person perceives. Communication is effective to the extent that the perceived message matches the intended message." http://www.msucommunitydevelopment.org/effectivecommunication.html Have we truly received God's message for us only through the pages of the Bible?

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